Sources: deal reached to extend Mideast talks

The deal reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians will see Israeli spy jailed in the United States Jonathan Pollard freed

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Palestinians and Israelis have reached a deal to extend peace talks beyond an April 30 deadline, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Thursday.

The deal will see an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners released from Israel jails and a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

In exchange, the Palestinians will suspend their plans to join 15 international bodies and treaties and the United States will release jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, according to sources.

The State Department said on Thursday that progress was being made in U.S.-mediated negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians meant to keep peace talks going, saying any speculations about a deal were “premature.”

“Our negotiating team and both parties remain in intensive negotiation. They had another meeting today. The gaps are narrowing but any speculations about an agreement are premature at this time,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular briefing.

Asked precisely what the negotiators were trying to achieve, Psaki said: “We are working to determine what the path forward is for these negotiations.”

Psaki said that the U.S. mediator, Martin Indyk, would be returning to Washington for consultations “in the coming days” but would return to the region next week.

The negotiations, which began in July, plunged into crisis last week when Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal, failed to carry out a promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by signing 15 global treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, on behalf of the State of Palestine, a defiant move that surprised Washington and angered Israel.

[With Reuters]

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